Awaiting the Blonde Beast

Lepenmacron-01-
Image: Lorie Shaull

Ici et Ailleurs, 16 May 2021 

Alain Brossat 


Returning home after a long absence, N. was greatly alarmed that the people of his country seemed quite as unprepared to deal with the anticipated advent of the Blonde Beast as they had been with the challenge of the pandemic. It was just a year before the inevitable high mass of the democracy of the spectacle was to be celebrated, and N. had passed through the aisles of an airport deserted as if stopped in time – duty-free shops all open and lit up, but hastily abandoned as if after a zombie attack; all this before boarding an equally empty plane for a long night between two worlds. So the post-apocalyptic Korean film of the moment (Peninsula) seemed like an innocent romcom compared to the evidence of the end of the world that struck him when he took this unreal journey between deserted places, where only a few ghosts of uniformed salespeople stood motionless here and there as if seized by a spell. 

On arrival, he was plunged without transition into the only too real world of French-style half-measures and incompetence: a border police that refused to compromise on PCR tests, while travellers from all over the world clustered at the checkpoints, regardless of the health situation in the countries they had left behind. The left hand ignores what the right hand does, following an intangible principle of pandemic ‘management’. 

Back home, scenting, observing, on the lookout and listening (and surprised at understanding everything without an effort – alas!), N. gradually succumbed to the most depressing of forebodings; were not all the conditions fulfilled, he lamented, for a fearful chain of events, one that would lead, without a break, from the interminable calamity of the pandemic to the crowning of the Blonde Beast? Replaying these dark thoughts, he wondered at the peculiarly pronounced taste that the people of his country seemed to show, in recent years as in other past circumstances, for obscure disasters and strange defeats. 

He couldn’t stop wondering about a kind of hesitancy, a stubborn distraction that these anaesthetised people showed in the face of what seemed just in front of their noses: after the virus, the Blonde Beast, the demo-fascists in charge; from the maelstrom of the pandemic to the cataclysm of the Blonde Beast. He was distressed by the vague, vapid, blasé tone of their conversations about a predictable future, which would inevitably turn out badly, with the worst case increasingly probable – but which they obviously struggled to imagine could really be worse than the perpetual deterioration of a drifting present. He saw them sunk in a great disgust, an immense fatigue accumulated over so many months of wandering in the tunnel of the endless epidemic, without leadership and with little light at the end. He saw them resigned to the new disaster looming on the horizon, paralysed, discouraged in advance from envisaging the disappearance of any political hope in the immediate future. When the imagination of another possible scenario than the one chiselled into the flesh of the present by exterminators of all kinds (a sort of endogenous June 1940, an Occupation by an internal invader) evaporates, then nihilism flourishes and imposes its conditions. 

Everything N. heard had the accent of this radical disorientation, this fatalism with a taste of ashes – nothing to hope for, nothing to fight for, so let the worst happen, it will hardly be worse than what we already have and will at least put on a show and electrify the atmosphere... Most people were trying as hard as they could to think of something else and avoid asking themselves the only question that matters at this time: what next? What crossroads are we at? What can we see in front of us, close at hand? What is, in fact, already happening to us, with so many obvious signs? What does the date – the event – we are moving towards signify, foreshadow, or promise, if we can put it that way?

What kind of event will it be? Just another election, not capable of really altering the course of things, since the specificity of institutional politics, in the era of formless and plastic democracy, is the rule that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’? Such indeed is the dangerous sophism inspired by the horrible common sense of democratic fatalism; exactly what, at this crossroads, led most people to accept with a resigned sigh (a reluctant shrugging of shoulders, which amounts to the same thing) the anticipated crowning of the Blonde Beast. If it is a verified constant that institutional politics and the variations occurring in its field only stir up the humus, the most superficial layers of common life, then nothing new or different in it can affect our lives in depth or really upset them – this was the disastrous reasoning behind such a disposition. 

If institutional politics is universally marked by governmental nefariousness (the brutal stupidity of power), a kind of natural perpetual worsening – then, since nothing can be substantially or qualitatively worse than the worst, the predictable triumph of the Blonde Beast would be only a minor event within this worst, with its natural place in the relative order of democratic moroseness and its fluctuations. Nothing, therefore, likely to awaken or arouse a people (reduced to the condition of an administered and mistreated population) or draw it out of its apathy. In the end, people would come to terms with the Blonde Beast by holding their noses, just as they had come to terms with everything else, for want of an alternative. 

Such was the chain of events, all marked by a great disgust, a lighter and more common version of contemporary nihilism, that a rather appalled N. saw developing before his eyes. The exhausted shrug of the shoulders, the pout of disgust appeared here not as something that would resist, even slightly, the exterminating nihilism of the conquering army, ever more numerous and blatant; it was rather a lugubrious accompanying music on the part of a tattered people. This kind of dubious phlegm (a counterfeit of sang-froid), this obstinate absence in the present, a present already overcrowded with the advance warning signs of this collapse – the Blonde Beast and her ever-growing solid cohort, impatient to take control of the state, to colonise its apparatus, to occupy the sites of power and satisfy their boundless appetite for demo-fascist harm under the flag of the great Beastliness. [1] 

It would indeed, N. insisted, a real conquest of power – not for all time, but certainly for five years, even a decade; a conquest of the power of the state, especially all its means of doing harm in all domains, in the street and public spaces, in teaching and research establishments, means of communication and information, places of culture and expression of thought, artistic practices and more. This conquest of power (starting with the resources of the executive) would be immediately in harmony with entire (if not majority) sections of the police force [2] and, as a recent episode illustrated, also the army, reawakening a revanchist spirit. The advent of the Blonde Beast would be the long-awaited opportunity to replay the lost Algerian war and take revenge, however imaginary (since unable to turn the wheel of history actually backwards), on the defeats and humiliations suffered by imperial France during the period of decolonisation. 

The Blonde Beast in charge, N. believed, would not be just another turn of the screw, but rather a kind of civil war, more or less latent or open, sporadic or generalised, a war declared by the exterminators from their high places against those who, already today, are designated more or less explicitly by our rulers as enemies of the state and would now be actively treated as such en bloc. Those who protested against these persecutions would become enemies of the state in turn, according to the prevailing dialectic of ‘terrorist’ and ‘sympathiser’ (as during the Algerian war of independence, or in Germany during the campaign against the Red Army Fraction).

The Blonde Beast in charge, N. argued, would not just be, as imagined by the white middle class, pervaded by the Enlightenment and offended (necessarily!) in advance by the poor taste of the popular electorate who had voted her in, simply a temporary ‘night of the spirit’, a national ‘shame’ in the eyes of foreigners, France a laughing stock of the civilised world – an opportunity once again to display an outraged air while waiting for it to pass. The Blonde Beast in charge would mean the full expansion of a vindictive desire of omnipotent eradication, a policy of resentment and hatred first of all towards everything associated with the post-colonial, and then towards popular forces resisting militarised democracy. It would mean, for the army, a neo-colonial and anti-subversive activism of the spiritual heirs of the OAS seeking to restore a ‘national greatness’ that is indistinguishable, today as in the past, from the spirit of colonial conquest and neo-imperial presumptions – in the Sahel, in Syria or elsewhere.

The Blonde Beast in charge would mean a tone, a style, a déjà-vu – a nasty little taste of the black years, an abject and derisory post-neo Pétainism – not the more toxic for all that – with its cohort of familiar characters (already populating and polluting public space in anticipation of the dreamed-of moment when they will be able to blossom fully): the informer, the collaborator, the war profiteer (profiteering from the state of war against the people that the occupation of the state by the Blonde Beast and her legions would be). It would also be a time of vigilantes, militias of order and repression, with no legal status but whose targeted and outlawed violence would be, like that of the police, constantly covered by the legal authorities. It would inevitably mean, when the situation became tense and rebellion and insubordination broke out, a procession of bloody repression, suspicious deaths and disappearances, extra-legal (targeted) executions and crude provocations – a foretaste of which we already had in the incidents that occurred at the end of the recent May Day demonstration on the Place de la Nation; a time of French-style death squads, formed by executors of dirty deeds from the ultra-secret sectors of the police and the army among others.

It would mean all this and much more, N. went on. The Blonde Beast in charge would not just mean school uniforms, flag-raising and the Marseillaise sung in chorus in educational establishments, morning and evening. It would not be just another electoral farce, rather a kind of self-inflicted June 1940; not a faux-pas, an unfortunate episode, a parenthesis that would close to everyone’s relief without leaving any trace, following the electoral calendar. It would actually be a sign of the times: a sign of a certain fading or disappearance, a collective renunciation affecting a people lost in and for itself, ‘out of its depth’, mislaid in the labyrinth of its own present. No longer knowing who they really were, where they were heading, or what they stood for; a people torn between the most contrary dispositions and desires. And a people who had sunk at this crossroads into a great disgust with everything and succumbed to the temptation of the worst, just ‘to see’, for the malignant joy of hitting rock bottom, summoned by the obscure pleasures of abjection. 

The Blonde Beast in charge would not just be a simple slip, an accident of history, a people tripping up and stumbling before promptly getting up again; rather, N. railed, it would be an ordeal, a truth test, the occasion for a ruthless diagnosis in situ on the history of a dereliction – that of a people who liked to tell themselves that they had a pact with the spirit of insubordination.

Taking the measure of this anticipated event, N. repeated, taking its full measure, should in no case lead us to resort to the all-purpose trope of the lesser evil, destroyer par excellence of political discernment. Our furtive community has repeated this time and again in successive presidential elections since the start of this century (more precisely, since the commotion produced by Jean-Marie Le Pen reaching the second round of the 2003 presidential election). We always said that the moral panics (moral more than political, strictly speaking) that incite people, in such circumstances, to rally to one obvious enemy of the people on the pretext that they are the only candidate likely to ‘block’ an even more obvious enemy of the people, are, as much as a reflex and somnambulistic gesture, the purest expression of a renunciation of any kind of capacity whatsoever in our societies, whether on the level of thought or of action. Not a saving gesture, but the abandonment in mid-stride by the individual or collective popular subject of any kind of political power. 

We said this, N. recalled, when it had to be said, and with sufficient force and clarity to have brought us our share of insults and animosity, of sovereign contempt, notably during those elections of sinister memory when first Hollande and then Macron benefited from the horrible alchemy of the lesser evil (in one case, ‘everything but Sarkozy’, in the other, ‘everything but Le Pen’). We proclaimed this forcefully enough in these circumstances to earn ourselves a full share of invectives hurled by militants, unthinking morons of the lesser evil, including more than one former close friend. Vituperations uttered by civics teachers sure of their position, but rapidly struck dumb when the saviour of the moment showed them, in the test of power, what the lesser evil they were supposed to embody actually meant.

On this point, N.’s conviction remained unshakeable: a panic reflex that feeds the rhetoric of lesser evil and blinds the discernment of those who still vote, invariably, in each ‘decisive’ election, is the zero degree of politics, the supreme stage of alienation of the autonomy of the political subject to the lure of ‘representation’ – the triumph of the simulacrum. If political homunculi like Hollande or Macron had any vocation whatsoever to represent the popular subject in its dispositions and interests, on any occasion whatsoever, it would have been known and seen, N. fumed – and yet consistently, to this day, this hackneyed black-magic trick has been enough to ensure, time and again, and in spite of everything, the promotion of enemies of the people supposed to be less bad than the hypostasised scarecrow of the moment. But, what if it turns out that this trick has now finally exhausted its resources? That would be providential for the Blonde Beast, and N. was not far from thinking that this was precisely the present inflection point. [3] 

The point, therefore, is not to create panic by raising the spectre of the Beast’s imminent accession to the republican throne, but on the contrary, to sweep away once and for all the phantasmagoria of ‘blocking the way to...’, which consists in clustering together behind the least bad among the enemies of the people, the outcome being that they only ‘block’ the Blonde Beast by acting beastly themselves. To this end, it would be advisable to begin by taking the measure of the real situation, identifying and recognising it in its own right – as a looming disaster.

N. would have liked, at that moment, to have been able to shout and scream this in public: less than ever is the time ripe for a derisory ‘tactical vote’, a bitter lesson once again. It is time for something else entirely – to get ready to fight, to put ourselves in battle order, which means radically changing our arrangements. What the Gilets Jaunes began, we will have to redeploy, on a completely different scale and under far more serious conditions. It will be a kind of war, and if a new people emerges from it, it will be in hardship, blood and tears. But it will be a people of emancipation once more, after the great rout of the pandemic. 

And here, carried away by his enthusiasm, N. did not hesitate to mobilise Garibaldi to serve the cause: ‘I have nothing to offer you,’ the Italian patriot proclaimed to his meagre cohort of famished Red Shirts, hunted by the French and Austrian armies, ‘but hunger, thirst, forced marches and all the perils of war. Let him who loves his country with his heart and not only with his lips follow me.’
 

Translated by David Fernbach 

[1] N. found amusing in these circumstances how the media and state officials pretended to take seriously the theme of the ‘normalisation’ of the Blonde Beast and her horde, her alignment with democratic norms. For anyone concerned to know what such an alignment really meant, it was enough, he thought, to take into consideration who in the present world political landscape constituted the points of reference for the Blond Beast’s politics: Trump, Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, Putin. This would immediately give the most realistic idea of what the conversion of the Blonde Beast to democratic good behaviour actually meant.

[2] Today, police authorities and police unions vigorously dissuade journalists from using the expression ‘police violence’. When the police commit illegitimate and illegal violence, we are told, they are punished, so police violence doesn’t really exist, in the ridiculous sophism they resort to here. Under the Blonde Beast, it would be rather different, in that the very use of such an expression would expose its author, whoever they might be, to the full rigour of the law.

[3] It is needless to go into further detail here on the reasons why this time the Blonde Beast has every prospect of winning. One of these, and not the least, is that the little shark with blue eyes and sharp teeth has liquidated the institutional left, the state left, while failing to reconstitute a conservative right able to stem the march to power of the Beast and her party – the result being that the shark finds himself committed to ‘playing the Beast’, politically, ideologically, and ever more distinctly, of course without the need to appropriate her label. In this sense, the shark is the perfect harbinger for the Blonde Beast.